Eating out defines one side of Seattle’s food scene. We know who to see for hand-cut soba (Mutsuko Soma, Kamonegi), Sunday-only fried chicken (Edouardo Jordan, JuneBaby), storm-gray London Fog cake (Charlie Dunmire, Deep Sea Sugar and Salt.) However the region simmers with a whole other cast of cooks, broadcasting signature recipes on Instagram accounts and Twitter feeds and Facebook Live videos—and in print. This fall’s crop of new cookbooks from local authors captures a more lasting image of what we’re consuming, who makes it, and why.
In Pasta, Pretty Please, Linda Miller Nicholson treats pasta as a literal art form—a textile, really—dyeing it with natural colors from butterfly pea flowers (“blue”) and spirulina (“lighter blue”) to chestnut flour (“warm brown”) and cacao powder (“rich brown”). Nicholson, a bona fide food personality whose sassy pasta escapades delight under the handle “Salty Seattle,” has garnered 190,000 Instagram followers. She juggles performance and politics as adeptly as a Pearl Jam fund-raiser, wrapping sheets of parsley-turmeric noodles around her body and honors Pride Month with friends by pinching dough into a four-by-eight mural of farfalle rainbows before eating every last color together.
Neatly timed before holiday feasting, a glut of fall books addresses how to reduce food waste, a peculiarly modern problem hitting peak public awareness. Many titles on the topic offer gimmicky solutions, but Jill Lightner cuts through the compost for readers in Scraps, Peels, and Stems. The former Edible Seattle editor addresses waste reduction as a lifestyle change rather than a fad diet; she bluntly describes the environmental, financial, and human toll of our wasteful ways, and offers realistic remedies. (Sick of the decaying greens in your fridge? Switch to salads that don’t rely on store-bought lettuce.) If only she’d added a chapter on the unforeseen consequences of oh, say, banning plastic straws.
In unusually anxious times, two very different home cooks offer culinary comfort, and maybe a motherly push toward self-reliance. Ashley Rodriguez, a photogenic chef-entrepreneur-photographer-teacher (not to mention a mom of three), takes on that role for New Seattle with Let’s Stay In. The book’s packed with gorgeous recipes that could have walked straight out of a Renee Erickson restaurant. Somehow, Rodriguez convinces us (and her 101,000 Instagram followers) that her family deals with the same struggles and challenges as ours, and we all can accomplish meals full of verve and beauty. If that sounds aspirational, I’m okay aspiring to her home version of Cinerama’s chocolate popcorn. Then, in a twist toward Old Seattle, turn to Home Cooking with Kate McDermott, by the baker known for Art of the Pie classes that teach as much about love and trust as crust and filling. McDermott expands here from self-styled “pie-chiatrist” to general food therapist, offering casseroles and fudgy brownies and a hefty breakfast hash that might have fueled a prairie farmhand, if it weren’t for the avocado and cilantro. As McDermott walks us through recipes and “wuzbands” (ex-husbands) and her personal history, she revisits tragedies and disappointments as matter-of-factly as joys. We’re consoled by the reminder that it’s all part of life’s menu.